California will deploy National Guard troops to the border, Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday, in what amounts to a giant win for the Trump administration.
But Mr. Brown said he doesn’t want to see the troops used to build President Trump’s border wall or take part in immigration enforcement.
“There is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California,” Mr. Brown said in a letter to the Trump administration.
The White House cheered the announcement and ignored the chiding from the governor.
Presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they were “glad to see California Gov. Jerry Brown work with the administration and send members of the National Guard to help secure the southern border.”
With the agreement of Mr. Brown, a Democrat, all four of the southwestern states that border Mexico have signed off on deploying guard troops.
California will deploy an additional 400 troops “statewide” to assist Homeland Security. They will join 250 guard troops already assigned to work on homeland security missions — 55 of whom are deployed to the border.
It’s not clear where the 400 new troops will end up, though, and Mr. Brown also said they will be limited in what they can actually do. He said he expects them to focus on helping disrupt cartel operations and attempts to smuggle drugs, people and firearms into the U.S.
“Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans — Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “That’s why the state and the guard have long supported this important work and agreed to similar targeted assistance in 2006 under President Bush and in 2010 under President Obama.”
“But let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life,” he said.
Troops have already deployed in Texas and Arizona and are coming in New Mexico — all states with GOP governors who were less worried about being seen as cooperating with Mr. Trump.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey held a send-off ceremony for his guard troops this week, and criticized politicians who say the border is secure, urging them to familiarize themselves with the latest challenges.
“We had a 200 percent increase in traffic across the border,” Mr. Ducey said, pointing to numbers from March that signaled the flow of illegal immigrants tripled compared to March 2017.
Democrats, though, have focused on last year’s totals, which were among the lowest on record. Those numbers reflected a massive drop in illegal immigration during the first months of Mr. Trump’s administration — though by the end of 2017 the numbers had rebounded to Obama-era levels.
Mr. Brown’s decision is likely to spark a backlash in California from an activist immigrant-rights community that has demanded across-the-board resistance to Mr. Trump.
The federal government is covering the costs of mobilizing the troops.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday the guard will be playing a support role, with duties like air support and vehicle maintenance.
“What we’re looking to do is supplement what the Border Patrol does so the Border Patrol can be on the border,” she said.